01 October 2008

The Konkans (Tony D’Souza)

Available at all good bookstores, courtesy of Penguin Books South Africa

My goodness, did I love this book! And I didn’t expect to – which makes it all the better. Weird name. Weird cover. Weird premise. But what a superb story. What delicious writing. What heavenly characters. And the possibility that it is autobiography thinly disguised as fiction? Yum.

This is how the author positions it:

Francisco D'Sai is a firstborn son of a firstborn son — all the way back to the beginning of a long line of proud Konkans. Known as the ‘Jews of India’, the Konkans kneeled before Vasco da Gama's sword and before Saint Francis Xavier's cross, abandoned their Hindu traditions, and became Catholics.

In 1973 Francisco's Konkan father, Lawrence, and American mother, Denise, move to Chicago, where Francisco is born. His father, who does his best to assimilate into American culture, drinks a lot and speaks a little. But his mother, who served in the Peace Corps in India, and his Uncle Sam are passionate raconteurs who do their best to preserve the family's Konkan heritage.

Friends, allies, and eventually lovers, Sam and Denise feed Francisco's imagination with startling visions of India and Konkan history. Filled with romance, comedy, and masterful storytelling, The Konkans leaves us surprised by what secrets history may hold for us if only we wonder enough to look.

And all I can add is this: abandon your preconceptions about what you do and do not like to read. Dismiss your ideas about your favourite genre, or style, or setting. Lose your literary biases. And fall in love with The Konkans; truly one of the best books I’ve read in years.


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